Saturday, February 25, 2012


Some of the most destructive things a person can collect are resentments: those insidious, soul killing altars of stored up cold anger.

Whenever I encounter deep resentments in a counseling session I know that it’s going to be a long road to recovery. Quick hot anger often leads to quick repentance and forgiveness. But resentment is like flowing lava that has cooled and turned to rock.

How do we guard against collecting resentments?

The most effective way is to process hurts as soon as we can. Those who tend to be avoidant in their conflict style may be more likely to collect hurts and then label themselves a peacemaker (this is a blind spot). Sometimes these hurts will reach capacity and then the person will spew like a volcano, turning volatile – blaming and shaming, all the while feeling justified in their immature behavior. If that doesn’t happen, all those hurts will eventually to stone. The person can become “hard-hearted” -- at least towards those who are perceived as offenders. Whether avoidant or volatile, the results are damaging to a relationship.

The more I resent, the less I love.

I am not saying that we do not have a right to be offended by others bad behaviors. I am simply saying that the failure to process these offenses in a timely manner will likely increase the relational harm. And holding on to these resentments will almost always do more damage to us than others.

We encourage people in our counseling office to lovingly detach from those who wound them on a regular basis. Each wound is a potential resentment, and sometimes only distance can protect them. The goal is to be able to love at a distance if it is not possible to love when more intimately involved.

If I am the offender or I know that someone has something against me, the Bible is clear that I must go to that person and try to set the relationship right. It is my responsibility to try to expiate the hurts before resentment can set in on both sides.

Is it time for you to examine your heart for resentments? Have you been avoiding addressing hurts with someone? Are there relationships where confession, repentance and forgiveness are needed whether you are the offender or not?

Perhaps this could be your sacrifice during this season of Lent (the forty days prior to Easter).

Matt 5: 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Romans 12: 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Wishing, Willing, Deciding

One of the wonderful things about being a sentient human being is the ability to choose many aspects of our existence.

Although having to make decisions will create anxiety for us at times, most people would agree that having this power is a basic and desirable ingredient of freedom. People and nations will fight over this very issue.

I am more concerned here with the process of choosing that occurs within us; the self-empowerment to change our behaviors and our attitudes. When we do not fully realize and apprehend what is within our power, we may likely abandon our responsibility and blame others instead.

While doing some reading on the history of psychotherapy I came across a therapeutic process of choice advanced by Rollo May that I find helpful. The process is described in three aspects:


Wishing – The first step is to become in touch with our deeper feelings, desires and values. Until we are able to really know what flows from our heart we will not know what to wish for. Do I desire a change in one of my behaviors? How deeply do I want this?

The second step is to move from wishing, to being willing to make the needed or desired change. Even though at this point we might have serious doubts and fears to overcome, a yielding takes place within us. A shift has occurred within our thinking and we become ready to choose something different.

Lastly, we make a responsible decision. We may need a great deal of support to follow through with our decision, but we have eliminated the ambivalence of choosing – we are now focused on success. We move forward with intentionality and determination and expectation of a positive outcome.

I see this process as being very compatible with our Christian faith, especially when our wishes line up with biblical values.

So ask yourself. “Where am I stuck? Where would this process be helpful for me? Do I need assistance with this process?”

Perhaps you need to pray for God to reveal your blind spots so that you can get to step one. Then keep praying that God would give you the strength to follow through with the things that he reveals to you.              

Saturday, February 11, 2012

When Life Overwhelms

Have you ever felt like your life was a confluence of negative events with murky outcomes? I know I have at times. People often joke that bad stuff happens in threes and so it’s wise to be prepared for the worst. In reality there are times when I would welcome only three stressors to deal with at once.

Here is what I have learned.

I am still standing even though there have been times when I wondered how I would get through something.

Often I feel more powerless than I really am. In the midst of what may feel like a crisis, my emotions may tend to get the better of me. Depending on my temperament, I may either rush to action, or shut down and freeze. The solution is to calm myself down and take a little time to think things through and then take some action. Sometimes the best first action is to contact someone I trust to help me process my thoughts.

If I look at things one at a time and deal with them individually I will feel less overwhelmed.

If I let my anxious thoughts overtake me by grouping all my stressors into one big cloud of worry I am less likely to see my options. Why? The solutions to the individual problems will often need different actions. Money will only solve money problems. Reconciliation will only solve relationship issues. You get the point.

Sometimes prayer is the best and only thing I can do at the moment.

Prayer should be an ongoing action. Once I have done whatever is possible to do I must continue to surrender to God in prayer. If my child has been hospitalized and I am waiting for an outcome, I have done all I can do in the natural world. Now it is time to enter more deeply into the supernatural and pray for the power of God to intervene.

We must remember that we are not alone. As hard as it can be, we must remember to trust.

Ps 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Matt 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Politics and Adultery

Pretty words and promises are seductive, especially when we are in pain, insecure, disappointed or hopeless. They draw our hearts, encourage us, as well as confuse us. And often they lead us away from our core values. And the results can be devastating to a marriage, state or country.

Both in politics and marriage, mistakes we make are frequently intense. The damage we cause with a bad vote or an adulterous affair may not be able to be reversed and the recovery is usually very difficult. The difference in marriage is that we bear the responsibility of our choices alone, even if the consequences of our actions are widespread.

In politics we have an opportunity to vote our values each time we cast a new ballot. In marriage we have an opportunity to refuse an affair each time one is offered. In both situations compromising our values is our enemy. Of course, knowing our values deeply and being committed to them is the first step. 

The second step is protecting ourselves from deceit and temptation by learning to run away fast. There is no shame in running away at the right time. Shame and guilt come with a failure to do so.

What do you value? What makes you feel whole, integrous? Where are you most vulnerable?

One of the great deceptions we have heard is the idea of “soul mate” as an excuse to leave a marriage.

“I finally found my soul mate. I married the wrong person.”

 “I heard from God that it is OK to divorce my wife and marry the person He had chosen for me all along.”

Uh, huh

God never tells us to go against his teachings in the Bible.


It wasn’t God that you were hearing from. It is another voice; perhaps your own, or?     

The idea of a soul mate “out there” is a myth. We become soul mates as we become one in marriage through years of commitment and hard work. We further strengthen that bond as we both submit ourselves to Christ and His love for us.  

We do strongly believe in choosing our mate well. It makes things much easier if we do. But we must remember that breaking marital vows is serious business. In a Christian marriage, we make a covenant before God to remain faithful, even when it is extremely difficult.

Even if you believe you chose poorly, seek God in the struggle, seek wise counsel, and remain true to yourself and your beliefs. Sometimes the hardest moments come right before a breakthrough.